Nickle Galleries highlights Indigenous identities

Indigenous culture: Nickle Galleries curator and interim director, Michele Hardy, poses in front of David Garneau’s, How the West Was…, 1997-2003, Oil on canvas, Collection of Glenbow, Calgary Alta. on April 18, 2023. Hardy talks about how rewarding it is to be a part of the behind-the-scenes of the David Garneau: Métissage exhibition. (Photo by Sophia Lopez/The Press)

Indigenous stories and voices were on display at David Garneau: Métissage — a survey exhibition of Métis art in the Taylor Family Digital Library’s Nickle Galleries, located on the University of Calgary campus. This exhibition was on display until April 22 to draw more light on Alberta’s rich Indigenous history as Edmonton-born David Garneau uses different mediums to tell stories of Indigenous culture throughout the years.

With more than 50 artworks, Garneau focuses on a métissage — a mixing — of both Indigenous and Euro-settler art styles.

Michele Hardy, a curator and the interim director at the Nickle Galleries, discusses what the exhibition portrayed.

“Many of the works from the beginning of his career through to the present day, they’re exploring his relationship with what it means to be Métis, what it means to be a man, what it means to be a contemporary Indigenous person, and of course to be of the prairies as well,” she said.

Aside from his creative work, Hardy also explains how Garneaus’s ties to the University of Calgary are another reason why his exhibition made it to the Nickle. Garneau has a BFA in Painting and Drawing and a MA in English, both from the U of C.

“So, what brought his work to mind at the Nickle is really that very close connection with Alberta, double connection with the University of Calgary and the fact that his work is just astounding,” she said.

While she doesn’t want to speak for others, Hardy hopes that this exhibition of Indigenous artworks was appreciated, not only by Indigenous students, but by the rest of the community who may want to learn more about the Indigenous history in the province — especially since Garneau recently won the Governor General’s Award for Outstanding Achievement.

“I hope by sharing the space with different artists, Indigenous and artists of colour, and artists from across the spectrum, that the Nickle is perceived as a more inclusive space than we have been in the past,” she said.

Ramiro Bustamante Torres, a student at the U of C, has always enjoyed visiting the Nickle on campus in between his classes. Having been a part of the campus community since 1979, The Nickle was established to help encourage education through art. Bustamante Torres appreciates that exhibitions like David Garneau: Métissage are free to experience.

“I really liked how the artist put together the components of art and just all the different connections with history to the Métis people,” he said. “I’ve come to most of the exhibits that they put up, like, seasonal-wise. I really enjoy coming to them.”

Even though educating the public on the history of the artworks is important, Hardy wanted to make sure the focus was still on the pieces themselves.

“It was a little challenging to write the didactic panels for the exhibition because we wanted to focus on the paintings and what David [Garneau] is trying to say, but we felt they needed some context,” she said.

The Nickle hosts multiple exhibitions throughout the year, with David Garneau: Métissage being one of its several Indigenous exhibitions. Other exhibitions currently on display include After Holbein – Turkish Carpets and the Tudors and The Birth of Portraiture: Alexander The Great and His Successors.

Hardy believes the David Garneau: Métissage exhibition is one that people of all ages and demographics should see, and that working behind the scenes of the exhibition has been an incredible experience for her.

She hopes that everyone can appreciate the métissage of different art styles.

“To learn about the history of the Métis and how rich and prolific that culture is has been tremendously rewarding,” she said.

Art and education: University of Calgary student, Ramiro Bustamante Torres, poses for a photo looking over the David Garneau: Métissage exhibition at the Nickle Galleries on April 17, 2023. Bustamante Torres would often visit the Nickle to view other exhibitions. (Photo by Sophia Lopez/The Press)
About Sophia Lopez 6 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Sophia Lopez is working as a writer for The Press in 2023.